THE Secret of Scrum

This is another fragment of the ALE conference lightning talk I did. It again follows on from Jerry Weinberg's quote:

No other observation skill may be more important to software engineering than precision listening.

I've tried to become a much better listener in recent years. An active listener. One of the things I've noticed is that software developers are somewhat prone to treat things as being black and white. True or false. Right or wrong. This is perhaps not so surprising for several reasons. Anyway, the point of the clip is not really to poke fun at Scrum, but to highlight the use of the word THE.

Precision Listening

At the ALE conference I did a lightning talk. On my first slide I quoted this from Jerry Weinberg's Quality Software Management Volume 1: Systems Thinking:

As consultants, we've found that the quickest and surest way to classify organizations into similar patterns is by the way people think and communicate.

On the second slide I quoted Jerry again (from the same book):

No other observation skill may be more important to software engineering than precision listening.

I was reminded of this a moment ago when someone cold-called me. I honestly don't remember what the person's name was or what they were selling. What I do remember is how the conversation started:

Hello, Jon Jagger speaking.

Hello, can I speak to Jon Jagger please.

Do you recognise this pattern? This response is pure waste. It does nothing but waste my time. After this response the one thing I know for sure is that they're not listening to me. And if they're not listening to me why should I listen to them?

flow = speed x density

I attended the ALE conference in Berlin last week. It was excellent in many many ways. Lots of participants have written blog entries and I thought I would write a short one about just one of the many things I thought was really great. It was the above graph which Karl Scotland drew in his talk, The Science of Kanban.

Karl used this graph in the context of traffic.
  • The green line is traffic Speed and it rises (to the right) from zero at the bottom left.
  • The red line is traffic Density and it rises (to the left) from zero at the bottom right.
  • The black line is traffic Flow and equals Speed x Density.
Speaking to Karl afterwards we discussed the analogy:
  • Speed = cycle time. The time it takes from the moment a piece of work enters the system to the time it gets to Done.
  • Density = work in progress. The amount of work that has entered the system but hasn't yet got to Done.
Karl also pointed out two feedback loops.
  • Start on the density line (red) at zero (bottom right) and increase the density (move up and to the left). For a while increasing the density increases the flow. Increasing the flow causes the density to reduce. Thus you have a stabilizing feedback loop helping to increase the flow.
  • As you continue to increase the density you drop over the top of the flow-curve.
  • Now as the density increases the flow decreases. And decreasing the flow causes the density to further increase. Thus you have a different destabilizing feedback loop helping to decrease the flow.
Simple and effective. Thank you Karl.